William R. Mathews/John Foster Dulles correspondence

Finishing up my internship here in the Special Collections Processing Center before moving on to digital humanities, I was given yet another little gem of a collection, the William R. Mathews papers. Even though this collection consists of no more than one skinny box of correspondence, I was so fascinated that it took me two days to finish just because I had to read them all. There are two very notable things about this box. The first is that the correspondence is largely complete: that is, I have both sides of the conversations, organized by year, many of them direct replies to each other. The second is who wrote them.

The letters fly back and forth between the editor of the Arizona Daily Star, William R. Mathews, and John Foster Dulles, the U.S. Secretary of State under President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1959. They chart the friendship between the two men over nearly seventeen years, from Dulles’ first formal letter to the editor in 1941 to the last in 1957, followed by a few more letters over the years to and from Dulles’ widow. The letters reference visits and calls between the two and their families as well.

From the first “Dear sir” on January 31, 1941, to the last “Dear Foster” on July 19, 1957, the letters show the meeting of two powerful minds, bent towards the same subjects and with many of the same ideas. Dulles and Mathews discussed everything from the role of Christianity and the church in American politics to the Allies’ policies around Germany, the Berlin blockade, and the later Bikini bomb experiments, which Mathews witnessed.

Mathews often advises Dulles on what he thinks Dulles ought to do, up to and including advising him about what he thought Thomas E. Dewey should do as Presidential candidate. He comments on and critiques Dulles’ and Dewey’s speeches, and the two also exchange and discuss each others’ publications and pamphlets, some of which are included in the collection.

The final jewel in this crown is Mathews’ diary of the beginning of the Korean War. He was in South Korea and Japan at the outbreak of the war as a journalist, and kept a fascinating record of what he saw and heard there, as the Americans went from “this will be no problem, we know exactly what’s happening,” to “what on earth just happened?!”

The moral of the story, folks, is “don’t hesitate to write a letter to the editor, you might end up with a lifelong friend.”

dear sir Dear Foster 2

Aaron M. Myers papers

As an intern here in the Special Collections Processing Center, I’ve been thrown feet first into a pile of old paper. Almost literally. Whether it was because I mentioned that I loved Shakespeare, or this collection was just next on the list, I was given the Aaron M. Myers papers: three unassuming boxes full of the ephemera of a man in love with the theater, particularly Shakespeare and particularly as performed in Philadelphia. It also includes quite a lot of photographs and assorted other materials, from guidebooks to theater tickets, from a trip to the British Isles from 1935 to 1936.

Aaron Michael Myers received his Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1920s. Both Myers and his wife were dedicated lovers of the theater, and their son Addison went on to become a reasonably well-known actor. Aaron Michael Myers was an assistant or associate professor at Temple University until his untimely death in 1937 at the age of 40. That’s all I know about him. While I could find records of his son (he’s even on IMDB), everything else I know about him comes from Addison Myers’ letter that came with the donation of this collection. From the collection, however, I learned something more about him. He loved to collect things, and was meticulous about what he collected. From his time in the British Isles, he kept and organized pages of postcards for their photographs, as well as prints. There are also years of playbills from the major Philadelphia theaters, and bunches of crackly newspaper clippings I was afraid I was going to break when I tried to read them.

I mentioned Shakespeare, yes? Of course. A large portion of Dr. Myers’ collection is devoted to the Bard. In England, he visited Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon and attended plays at both the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford, and at the Globe in London. Most of the playbills from Philadelphia are from productions of Shakespeare’s plays.

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Playbills from the Broad St. Theatre, as well as theater tickets in an envelop from the Abbey Theatre.

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The guildhall and the law courts of London, 1935

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Postcard photographs from Stratford-upon-Avon

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Trinity church, Stratford-upon-Avon

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Canterbury: the Weavers and general view

 

Most of the playbills are from Philadelphia theaters, especially Broad St. Theatre and the Forrest Theatre. Most of the newspaper clippings (and some playbills) concern the Abbey Theatre Players’ several visits to Philadelphia, documenting what they performed in advertisements and reviews.

There’s also a whole file of the first fifteen publications of The Shakespeare Pictorial, a small magazine of essays about Shakespeare, both as theater and as literature.

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The cover of the first publication of the Shakespeare Pictorial: Occasional Papers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I thoroughly enjoyed this collection, and look forward to the next one!